Who decides what slow learning is in this country? Every student deserves a free public education with teachers who understand their educational needs. Not only are corporate reformers slamming slow learners, they’re pushing children to grow up faster than is humanely possible. All our children are expected to be hyperlearners!
There is nothing wrong with learning slowly!
Last week, Scott Brister who is the chairman of a Texas Commission on Public School Finance, was discussing how to spend funding allocated to special education in that state. He questioned whether they should spend money on the brightest kids or the slowest learners. Of course, it sounded like he didn’t think money should be spent on the slower learners.
He claims his words were taken out of context, but such comparisons have always been behind denying students special education services.
Consider the 1972 case Mills v. Bd. of Education. Mills arose when seven children with disabilities were denied schooling. Washington DC school administrators claimed they didn’t have enough money. The court ruled that the school district would have to spread the money they did have across the district to serve all children.
Brister’s comments are especially troubling because Texas education officials appear to be going out of their way to deny students with disabilities services.
For years they placed a cap on students with disabilities, refusing them the educational assistance they were entitled to. They continued to break the law with little no oversight from the U.S. Department of Education.
What if you learn slowly? Learning slowly might not be a bad thing. Reflecting on the world around you could mean you are thinking seriously. Einstein was said to be this kind of thinker.
If a student learns slowly due to a disability, they still deserve the best schooling.
Slow learning is also troubling in today’s hyperlearning atmosphere.
Last week at a Congressional hearing, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos promoted dual enrollment for high school students—earning college credit in high school. She even suggested pushing job preparation down to the middle school level—like 12 year olds should be ready to commit to a vocation.
Many policymakers like hyperlearning. They think it makes America look strong and ready for the 21st Century Global Economy. What do they want—ten year old children running companies? They also make it sound like the world is going to collapse if they don’t make children learn faster than ever before!
We’ve become a nation that freaks out if a first grader isn’t reading fluently, when other countries like Finland don’t start formal reading instruction until third grade. In America, kindergarten is the new first grade. Some say it’s the new second grade!
So if a child is developing normally, will they still be called slow in today’s superlearning environment?
Parents who rely on IDEA, believing it will protect their slower-learning child, need to pay close attention to their school board’s discussion on funding. Nothing should be taken for granted.
Be especially careful that children with disabilities aren’t put on computers in the classroom where they will get the bulk of their instruction.
If Texas can get away with ignoring IDEA for so long, why should we expect other states to follow the law? And the term slow learner should give us pause.
Children who work slower may need additional help, or they may be moving along at the speed that is most appropriate for their developmental age.
If they are in special education, they might need more individualized attention. Whatever their needs, what they need should be determined by parents and teachers close to the child, not some far removed board with people who have ulterior motives and a business agenda.